Baits have become an important tool for controlling subterranean termites, which are the most common type of termites found in the United States. Native termites in the genus Reticulitermes are the most widespread. Subterranean termites are closely associated with the soil habitat where they excavate a network of tunnels to reach water and food. Termite baiting is a very complex subject that is discussed in detail herein |
Baits rely on the biological fact that termites are social insects that feed and groom each other, hence providing a mechanism for transfer of chemical throughout their colonies. Because of social exchange of food called trophallaxis, termites can be affected by a slow-acting toxicant without directly contacting or feeding upon it. Furthermore, baits can have colony-wide effects because individual termites are not site-specific, but instead move freely between numerous, interconnected sites during relatively short periods of time. They also intermix with other colony members so that the same group of termites does not simultaneously visit a bait site.
Wood or some other type of cellulose is used in termite baits, because cellulose (wood) is the food of subterranean termites. The cellulose is impregnated with a slow-acting toxicant that cannot be detected by the termites. The toxicant necessarily is slow acting because termites tend to avoid sites where sick and dead termites accumulate. Termite workers feed on the treated material and carry it back to other colony members, where it slowly poisons the termites and eventually reduces or eliminates the entire colony.
Typically, in-ground stations are inserted in the soil next to the structure and in the vicinity of known or suspected sites of termite activity. In-ground stations often initially contain untreated wood that serves as a monitoring device. The monitoring wood is replaced with the toxicant once termites have been detected feeding on it. In addition, aboveground stations may be installed inside or on the structure in the vicinity of damaged wood and shelter tubes. Above ground stations initially contain bait.
Baits work much more slowly than soil termiticides, and the homeowner should be aware of the possibility of a lengthy baiting process. Several months or more may elapse before the termites locate stations, then termites must feed on sufficient amounts of the toxicant.
An often-cited advantage of termite baits is that they are "environmentally-friendly" because they use very small quantities of chemical and decrease the potential for environmental contamination. In addition, bait application causes little disruptive noise and disturbance compared to soil treatments. Furthermore, baits can be used in structures with wells or cisterns, sub-slab heating ducts, and other features that may preclude a soil treatment. Baits are often used in sensitive environments.
Termite baits may also be installed above ground in known areas of termite activity. Typically, the stations are installed directly in the path of active termite tunnels after the mud tubes have been broken. Effects tend to be more rapid with above-ground baiting because the procedure does not depend upon "chance" termite encounters with the stations.
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